Top 7 Facts About Animal Kingdom
Opened in 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the world’s largest theme park, covering over 580 acres. The park is not a zoo, rather it is a theme park that is centered upon live animals. Today, millions of people visit Animal Kingdom to explore wild terrains, see exotic animals, and ride fun animal-themed attractions.
1. The park’s icon, the Tree of Life, was modeled after the baob tree
Every guest who enters Animal Kingdom is greeted by the 145-foot-tall Tree of Life, which acts as the park’s icon. Although the Tree of Life looks startlingly real, with its leafy branches and sprawling roots, the tree is completely artificial – though it was modeled after the baob tree. The baob tree is seen mostly in Africa and Australia and is one of the largest tree species in the world. Disney designers took parts from an old oil platform and sculpted them into the shape of the tree. Talented painters colored the tree so that it effortlessly blends in with the surrounding foliage. At the bottom of the tree, 325 animal carvings are visible, showing various extinct species such as the wooly mammoth and the dodo bird.
2. Animal Kingdom is home to over 1700 animals from 250 different countries
The park is divided into three main themes: Africa, Asia, and DinoLand U.S.A. Each area contains shops, restaurants, and, of course, animals. Africa offers a Safari ride, showcasing Savannah animals such as giraffes, lions, cheetahs, elephants, wildebeest, cape buffalo and crocodiles. A quick walk over to Asia reveals more exotic animals, including komodo dragons and tigers. Although DinoLand U.S.A doesn’t have any real dinosaurs, they do have some seemingly prehistoric creatures such as the American crocodile and the red legged seriemas.
3. The park contains eight endangered white rhinos
Animal Kingdom is actively doing its part to keep the white rhino off the extinction list. Since its opening in 1998, eight white rhinos have been born within the park’s walls. Although the park caters to human entertainment, animal research and endangered breeding projects are very important to park workers and always take priority. If you are visiting the park in the future, make sure to arrive early, since the park closes earlier than any of the other Disney World parks. This ensures that the animals don’t get stressed out by the crowds and liver happier, healthier lives.
4. The attraction Expedition Everest is the tallest “mountain” in Florida at 200 ft.
It’s hard to miss one of Animal Kingdom’s most popular rides: Expedition Everest. Peaking at 200 feet tall, the roller coaster is located in the “Asia” section of the park – though with its impressive height it can be seen from numerous places around the park. The ride takes guests on a journey through and around the mountain in an attempt to escape the wrath of a fearsome yeti who, according to legend, has been wreaking havoc on the mountain for centuries. This high-speed coaster isn’t for the faint of heart (or stomach) but for those less interested in encountering the guardian of the Himalayas, the area surrounding the ride also offers beautiful views of the park, including a lush bamboo forest and numerous waterfalls.
5. On May 27, 2017, Animal Kingdom added another extension to the park: Pandora – The World of Avatar
The newest addition to Animal Kingdom is an immersive journey into the world of Na’vi from the hit film Avatar. Disney engineers and architects worked diligently to recreate the fantastical world in Animal Kingdom and the results are otherworldly. From mystical floating mountains to glowing flowers and streams, guests are able to walk right into the world of Pandora and be completely transported. This area of the park offers two attractions: Flight of Passage and the Na’vi River Journey. Guests can spend an entire day exploring the beautiful landscape, riding the fantastical rides, shopping at Pandora’s Windtraders and stopping for snacks at the Satu’li Canteen. At the moment, four sequels to Avatar are being planned so this section of the park might have even more expanding to do in the future!
6. Guests can dig for woolly mammoth bones in DinoLand’s Boneyard
Although it’s technically called “The Boneyard Playground,” this place is a lot more than just a playground! Modeled after real dinosaur archeological dig sites, The Boneyard offers a fun, and educational, experience for kids. The fossil fun site has slides, rope ladders, and tunnels on varying levels, allowing children of all ages to play. The best part about The Boneyard is, of course, the bones. Children are encouraged to dig through the “Texas grit” (a non-stick variety of sand) found in the massive sand box at the center of the site to find the faux remains of a 10,000 year old woolly mammoth.
7. Discover the wild alongside characters from the Disney-Pixar film “Up” in a brand new show opening Spring 2018
Located in the Asia section of the park is the Caravan Theater, which houses interactive shows based upon the Indian rainforests and their many unique creatures. The exclusive “Up” show brings back a few of the film’s most beloved characters, including Russell and his dog Doug. Guests will be taken on an epic quest in the wild in search of exotic birds. The show that is currently being shown at the Caravan Theater (“Flights of Wonder”) includes over twenty different species of birds – all of which will likely be brought over to the “Up” show. Make sure to mark your calendars and keep an eye out for this fun, interactive show coming soon to Animal Kingdom!
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Special thanks to Peyton Hinkle for writing this article! My name is Peyton Hinckle and I am Junior at UNC-Chapel Hill where I am currently studying English and Studio Art. I’ve been an avid Disney fan since I was little, with a special appreciation for everything creative, colorful, and geeky. Some of my favorite Disney characters include Princess Aurora, Moana, and Marvel’s Avengers.